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Rep. Chris Murphy Introduces Supreme Court Ethics Bill

Takes aim at conservative justices' alleged conflicts of interest.

A protester disrupted U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy’s presentation as he was introducing legislation on Supreme Court ethics Tuesday afternoon, according to a tweet he sent around 1:30 p.m.

Murphy (CT-5) and U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY-9) were at the Capitol Tuesday afternoon to introduce a bill highlighting Supreme Court ethics and targeting possible conflicts of interest with an eye toward the fate of health care reform.

Murphy drafted the bill in response to the alleged conflict of interest centering on Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas reportedly attending a political event sponsored by the Koch brothers, a pair of billionaires who have used their wealth to support conservative causes and attack the Obama administration. The Citizens United court decision, on which the two justices ruled, allowed unrestricted corporate spending in political campaigns.

"If I were to ask someone on a Main Street in Connecticut if they would be comfortable with a Supreme Court justice accepting a plane ticket and all expenses paid at a fancy hotel courtesy of a special interest, I know what their answer would be.  No way. Yet, Justices Scalia and Thomas did just that — while one of the Koch brothers' top priorities was pending before the highest court in the land.  It is outrageous, and demands that Congress take action," Murphy said in a statement earlier this week.

Murphy said he drafted the bill to bring more sunlight and transparency to the country’s highest court and help restore public trust.

According to Murphy, the bill would:

  • apply the Judicial Conference's Code of Conduct, which applies to all other federal judges, to Supreme Court justices. This would allow the public to access more timely and detailed information when an outside group wants to have a justice participate in a conference, such as the funders of the conference;
  • require the justices to publicly disclose their reasoning behind a recusal when they withdraw from a case;
  • require the Court to develop a process for parties to a case before the Court to request a decision from the Court, or a panel of the Court, regarding the potential conflict of interest of a particular Justice.

"If this is the tip of the iceberg, with justices conflicted on several fronts, and refusing to disclose their conflicts or recuse themselves from cases, we've got to stop this immediately.  Right now, we have no clue.  With a potential Supreme Court fight on the new health insurance law looming, we need to know the Supreme Court is immune to outside influence," Murphy said.

Ichabod Crane March 03, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Jessie, thanks for your input, interestingly I note in your profile that you admit to being a registered Democrat and having volunteered for Chris Murphy in the past along with Dick Blumenthal and Dannel Malloy. Kaitlin is also a registered Democrat.
Jeff Hogan March 04, 2011 at 05:19 AM
While I'm pleased to receive any information regarding politicians who represent our district, I too am perplexed about this piece of legislation. Congressman Murphy needs to pay attention to the business that faces the Congress now........balancing a budget. That is the job at hand. He spent nearly $3 million in his last bid for office most of which came from the special interests that he now complains about. I see this as the height of hypocrisy. It is truly disingenuous. Millions of Americans are suffering and unemployed. He needs to concentrate on making jobs and stopping out of control government spending. This is what is relevant to voters and constituents now. I have much more faith in the Supreme Court's ability to be objective.
Beth Kintner March 12, 2011 at 06:46 PM
The courts are another part of the mess this nation is in. Yes, he needs to focus on the big issues as well, but until I read about this bill, I wasn't aware of what these judges had participated in - they should be ashamed! How do the average people in this country maintain their rights when big corporate is buying the courts?! It is important to hold the justices accountable & prevent this sort of conflict of interest in the future.
Celine July 06, 2011 at 05:05 PM
I just recently became aware of this legislation and felt as others, take care of Congressional ethics (best oximoron to date) and then you can point the finger and try to fix. But if the ethics of two Supreme Court justices are so transparent, then what are the odds of ever getting this legislation passed. Is everyone in Washington DC bought and paid for? Does being a taxpayer count for anything in this country other than being the dummy who pays the bill?
Paul Roden July 18, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Doesn't the Congress have the power to impeach and remove a Supreme Court Justice from the bench? Where is the "check and balance" on the Supreme Court?

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